How and when to deal with common running injuries

With the weather breaking and the Broad Street Run approaching, people are going to begin hitting the pavement after a long winter indoors. Many people will begin ramping up their mileage and some people will start noticing pain. When do we need to pay attention to the pain? When do we just run through it? 

One of the biggest mistakes runners make—and the reason my clinic is full of patients—is that people’s first response to pain is to stop running. Many people will feel pain and the pain will increase and as the pain increases the first thought is to stop running. The thought is that by stopping, the pain will disappear.  However, by just stopping running and not treating it, the pain will not go away. For the first couple days or weeks the pain may lessen because the inflammation will go down, but you will not have fixed the problem. 

Below are listed some common running injuries and some ways to treat them initially. Ignoring them is not the answer. They need to be addressed as the pain is felt. It needs to be stated that if you feel pain it is best to have that pain diagnosed by a medical professional so that the most proper plan of action can be put into place. 

  • Shin splints: Shin splints are pain felt up the shin. Shin splints are commonly felt by runners as distances increase. There are many fads on the internet to treat shin splints and every runner will offer you his/her own take on what they have experienced or feel is the fool-proof method for treating shin splints. 

In reality, shin splints are there because there is dysfunction going on elsewhere. Addressing just the shin splints will not treat the overall problem. If you feel you have shin splints, seek out a medical professional who is well versed in treating runners.

  • Ice:  Never underestimate the power of ice.  Too often I hear about how people tried ice once.  If you are feeling pain, ice is a great tool to help decrease the pain continuously. You should ice 15 minutes at a time for a few weeks until the pain ceases. You may ice multiple times in a day.  Icing should always be one of the first things you try when you feel pain.
  • Foam rolling: Foam rolling the entire lower extremity can help reduce muscle trigger points that are causing imbalances. Making sure that you roll out off the muscles in the legs and not just the shins is important. Foam rolling 10 minutes every day helps decrease overall leg pain and fatigue.
  • Shoes: Making sure that you are fit for proper running shoes makes a big difference on how your foot responds to the ground.
  • Stretching:  This should come second to foam rolling.  But there are a few stretches that can be done for the hip and the front of the shin that will help reduce the pain. The video shown will introduce these stretches. These can be done multiple times throughout the day.
  • Strengthening: An important part of any runners program is strengthening, specifically hip strengthening. Strengthening the outside muscles of the hip and also strengthening the muscles of the core will allow the runner to run with a more stable base, not irritating the muscles of the leg.

IT Band Tendinitis is pain felt on the outside of the knee and also the outside of the leg. Because the IT Band crosses the hip and the knee joint, both must be addressed.  Just like with shin splints, IT Band dysfunction usually indicates greater problems in other areas so you will want to consult a healthcare professional to make sure that the true root of the problem is being addressed.

Again, the most important thing that should be done is icing. Not just once—ice will help you much more than any anti-inflammatory will.  Ice for 15 minutes at a time for a few weeks and make sure to do it every day.  The best time—if you need to pick only one—is at the end of the day. 

Found in the video are stretches that will help stretch out the foot and the hip, all muscles that will have an impact on the IT Band.  Despite what is commonly found on the internet, doing a stretch specifically for the IT Band does not produce results as the IT band is a tough fibrous tissue that research has shown stretching cannot make any changes to. 

Making sure to address issues and concerns as they come up and not ignore them until they are a bigger issue is the key to running pain free and keeping you on the road for as many miles as possible.  

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